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Library that enables the creation of alternate constructor-likevariant forms for arbitrary functions.

Project description Documentation Status

variants is a library that provides syntactic sugar for creating alternate forms of functions and other callables, in the same way that alternate constructors are class methods that provide alternate forms of the constructor function.

To create a function with variants, simply decorate the primary form with @variants.primary, which then adds the .variant decorator to the original function, which can be used to register new variants. Here is a simple example of a function that prints text, with variants that specify the source of the text to print:

import variants

def print_text(txt):

def print_text(fobj):

def print_text(fpath):
    with open(fpath, 'r') as f:

def print_text(url):
    import requests
    r = requests.get(url)

print_text and its variants can be used as such:

print_text('Hello, world!')                 # Hello, world!

# Create a text file
with open('hello_world.txt', 'w') as f:
    f.write('Hello, world (from file)')

# Print from an open file object
with open('hello_world.txt', 'r') as f:
    print_text.from_file(f)                 # Hello, world (from file)

# Print from the path to a file object
print_text.from_filepath('hello_world.txt') # Hello, world (from file)

# Print from a URL
hw_url = ''
print_text.from_url(hw_url)                 # Hello, world! (from url)

Differences from singledispatch

While variants and singledispatch are both intended to provide alternative implementations to a primary function, the overall aims are slightly different. singledispatch transparently dispatches to variant functions based on the type of the argument, whereas variants provides explicit alternative forms of the function. Note that in the above example, both print_text.from_filepath and print_text.from_url take a string, one representing a file path and one representing a URL.

Additionally, the variants is compatible with singledispatch, so you can have the best of both worlds; an example that uses both:

def add(x, y):
    return x + y

def add(x, y):
    return x + [y]

Which then automatically dispatches between named variants based on type:

>>> add(1, 2)
>>> add([1], 2)
[1, 2]

But also exposes the explicit variant functions:

>>> add.from_list([1], 2)
[1, 2]
>>> add.from_list()
      7 @add.register(list)
      8 def add(x, y):
----> 9     return x + [y]

TypeError: unsupported operand type(s) for +: 'int' and 'list'

It is important to note that the variants decorators must be the outer decorators.


To install variants, run this command in your terminal:

$ pip install variants


This is a library for Python, with support for versions 2.7 and 3.4+.

Version 0.2.0 (2018-05-03)


  • Added the variants.inspect module, which provides a public API for inspecting variant function groups. It currently provides two functions: is_primary and is_primary_method. (GH #29)

  • Added python_requires to setup, indicating Python version support. (GH #34)


  • Updated to include NEWS.rst (GH #34)

Improved Documentation

  • Updated permanent redirect links in documentation. (GH #28)

  • Flattened TOC entry for changelog in documentation. (GH #32)

  • Added section for API documentation, including documentation for the inspect submodule. (GH #33)

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